Blogging is journalism except when it is not

Bloggers don't write stories. We tell stories. There is a difference. Blogging is not a medium "of record." It's not about what the sources are saying, it's about what readers want to know.

This month marks the start of my sixth year getting paid to blog.

I came to it after 20 years online, 27 years as a business journalist, and 40 years after I first started writing news stories, as a 15-year old doing radio and newspaper work on Long Island.

I bring this up only to show that I am a journalist, but I am also a blogger. The two jobs are the same, but they are also very different.

And I bring that up in reaction to an interview I conducted yesterday with Siteworx, a Washington-area Web developer.

Siteworx wants everyone to know it has just hired Rob Klause, late of the Obama Web team (and before that the Bush team), as a senior vice president and client consultant. Sort of like a White House cook getting an executive chef position.

Good for Rob. Siteworx founder Tim McLoughlin (above) also wants everyone to know that Rob's experience in social media is matched by the company's ongoing efforts to boost its mobile expertise. There's a lot of money in mobile.

Fine. But why am I doing this interview? We spent nearly a half-hour on the phone and I still don't know.

I think they wanted me to write a story.

That's the problem. Bloggers don't write stories. We tell stories. There is a difference.

A blogger generally does not get paid by the reader, or the hour, or the story. We get paid based on readership. You click, we profit. A "story" that makes no sound makes no money.

This represents a new type of problem for businessmen, for PR people, and for newsmakers generally. Back in the day -- that is to say 10 years ago -- you bought a "bundle" of news in the form of a newspaper or magazine.

No more. Now you buy it by the piece. You like something, you click on it and read it. Everything else just lies there. It's like the transition music is going through, from $15.99 albums to 99 cent songs on iTunes. Those extra "filler" songs don't count anymore. Same with filler news stories.

The New Yorker has a story this week -- the online version is behind its firewall -- with White House reporters making a similar complaint. They're posting so often, on-air or online, that they don't have time to do real journalism. They just repeat the headlines, which turn out to be just what other journalists are saying, not what is happening.

This is the chief danger of blogging as a journalistic medium. Blogging is not a medium "of record." It's not about what the sources are saying, it's about what readers want to know.

I'm going to let Tim have the last word for now (well, almost):

A lot of flashy agencies are very good at being flashy. But a lot of our work comes from those agencies, people wanting something they can operate over time, that won't be outdated quickly. You need to know what the cutting edge is, which is why we bring in those people, but a lot of our business has been with executing on time.

Very nice. But I need something I can sell. I'm a blogger, not a stenographer.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com